Hotel Industry Wakes Up to Healthier Kids Menus

PHOTO: JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts has partnered with nutritionist and author Keri Glassman to create a new JW Kids Menu.

Salmon teriyaki or steak?

And that's just from the kids menu. Hyatt Hotels has launched a For Kids, By Kids Family Cook-Off recipe contest.

The contest commemorates the second year of the initiative with new enhancements that provide healthy, interesting food choices for kids developed with the help of 12-year-old Chef Haile Thomas, who has cooked for first lady Michelle Obama.

The first lady famously has made combating childhood obesity and encouraging a healthier lifestyle one of her signature issues. Here's what Obama told TakingtheKids exclusively about vacationing healthier on vacation by staying active and encouraging kids to eat better on vacation.

To that end, Hyatt is inviting families to create and share a healthy breakfast recipe, along with a photo via Facebook for a chance to win a vacation at a Hyatt resort and a spot on Hyatt's For Kids, By Kids Menu.

Salmon Teriyaki for Kids by Hyatt

At the same time, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts has partnered with nutritionist and author Keri Glassman to create a new JW Kids Menu. (As starters, think fresh-cut cucumber and carrot sticks with a low-fat yogurt ranch dip or cheese cubes and grapes.)

I like the "This, That & the Other" section that is designed to help kids make their own healthy choices, mixing and matching from the menu, with kids helped by games and activities that teach nutrition lessons.

"Travel presents opportunities to try new things and even lets kids bring new food favorites or habits home with them," Glassman said at the launch. "The new JW Kids Menu helps kids accomplish just that."

In the past year, more hotel chains have revamped their kids menus to make them healthier with less fat and sugar, as well as prepared with locally sourced foods. Fairmont has launched a Fairmont-wide initiative to improve and upgrade kids menus with fresher, local ingredients designed to encourage kids to try foods from British Columbia, Mexico or San Francisco where the menu includes recipes with honey from the hotel's rooftop bee hives.

Hyatt Waffle-Dipping Sticks

The trend is evident at ski resorts, too. Keystone in Colorado, a Vail Resort, for example, has initiated the National Restaurant Association's Kids Live Well Initiative designed to get kids to eat more fruits and veggies, whole grains while limiting fat, sugar and sodium. At Keystone's Mountain House base lodge, that means a chicken taco or teriyaki chicken noodle bowl at the Ripperoo Kids Station (designed so kids can reach to order themselves).

For lunch at Hyatt Hotels, kids can "build their own whole wheat sub sandwich" or "top their own" breakfast taco. They can order scrambled eggs and chicken sausage with a fruit skewer or an organic turkey burger with house made ketchup for lunch.

"Kids are 100 percent more sophisticated eaters," says Kenneth Juran, the executive chef at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando, which welcomes many junior foodies.

"There are a lot less requests for chicken fingers and fries," he said, adding that kids these days consider being in touch with food and what they are eating as "cool … like being part of the in crowd."

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